Against that positivism which stops before phenomena, saying “there are only facts,” I should say: no, it is precisely facts that do not exist, only interpretations…
That was one chaotic tavern. I had visited many during my travels across the Imperial order and the West. All shared their load of debauchery and utter nonsense, but the Smiling Gleeman was stuck into a loop of folly, despite its modest reputation. Officially, it was one of many private establishments for harlequins, the most extravagant of kingsmen.
After presenting the doll to its warders, I was granted a nod, and I have swiftly been escorted into this realm of lust, where jesters and fools had sex in wide-open quarters, the air being completely drowned under the pipe smoke. Dragged into the back corner of the inn, I realized the smoke resembled the Fog’s brightness. Hopefully, the effects of the drug dismissed the pain inflicted by Melogre’s lashes. Running through my back, these two lashes by Lord Major Melogre have been performed with an exquisite refinement and a vile brutality. For he missed one strike, he repeated it, and the wounds now drew a red cross on my spine.
The warders pursued my tour, and I looked around. Amongst these painted faces, Saint Rohan could be anyone. This is why I fear him.. He is everywhere.
Then, the harlequin warders stopped in front of a fortified door. I held my ground in front of them, decided to impose myself even if I were to work alongside them. One of them smiled sarcastically, while his colleague opened the door.
“Ser Daegoln is expecting you, the one in front of me said.”
Without thanking him, I entered and I heard the lock behind. Irrevocable.
It mattered not. Because he was sitting casually, right in front of me. Wearing a gentleman’s hat, his black coat tightened around his slim but strong body, and his raven-like face hid under his long and ebony hair. His coat was simple, but rich, so clean that the black shoe and had a crimson reflection. Pale but vigorous, he had a thin face, and even thinner lips. He wasn’t androgynous, but looked impeccable, perfectly shaved. His red scarf reminded lord r of a cape.
Rising his head, the man didn’t give lord Torquaz any sort of particular attention, barely acknowledging his presence. He was shuffling cards when Torquaz arrived, and his interrupted distribution moved more the other poker players around the table than his facial features.
Resuming the shuffling, he allowed himself the hint of a smile. His long hair snapping with any movement of his head, he revealed his purple eyes to Dantena who knew for sure it was him.
“Are you joining? the dealer with purple eyes asked.
- Of course, I never refuse a challenge you know me well.”
And Dantena van Torquaz sat right in front of the only swordsman and magician who had always outclassed him at the University and in the Daylight, the one they called the Golden Eye and the Silvertongue. He was a man who killed a demonking. He was Norman Daegoln, the most famous hero of his time.
Around the table, the card players glanced between both of them, before Daegoln said:
“Will you please you gentlemen to allow me some privacy with my old friend? He and I have a lot of years to tell to each other.”
He was charming, but also all of these goons knew for sure of Daegoln’s temper. Therefore, they bowed respectfully and left without a word. When the door slammed behind, Torquaz smiled.
“A lot of years indeed,”Torquaz said.
“How have you been Danta?” Norman asked.
His face was handsome, but Norman never succeeded to seem noble. Always dressed like a dandy, he played cards in taverns, attended brothels and couldn’t count his mistresses. Maidens dreamt of sharing his bed and boys craved his success. Yet, nobody envied the character of Daegoln. There was an obvious reason to that. Golden Eye and Silvertongue haven’t created his reputation of the Imperial Order’s most powerful hero. The source of his ability relied elsewhere. The War. A war in particular where the dashing swordsman Dantena van Torquaz became flayed, and realized he had become immortal.
“Not well, you know,’ Dantena started. ‘I’m sure you know…
- That war had disastrous consequences for most, I have been blessed,’ Norman commented.
To say the least.
Why are you here?’ Daegoln said without a break.
‘- So why I’ve come to give you my answer after all what happened?” Daegoln nodded with a smile, with Torquaz pursuing: “Because I have realized I’m done with the Imperial Order.
- Oh,’ Daegoln said. “You realized that you’ll never give in, like we have.
I have failed to save her…
The Keshian? My poor…
The Emperor’s Daughter…”
Daegoln’ silent meant he understood, like if he always knew.
“She fled the Empire because of… We loved each other. I won my first Gathering for a kiss with her, when her father wasn’t Emperor… I led the army to take her back, and I have failed. An assassin slew her and prepared to kill of us. I was disgraced, captured and tortured. I’ve returned an officer of His Majesty’s Night Watch… But I’ve never forgotten. Only you or the Kingslayer could have betrayed us…
- Well, if I tell it wasn’t me would you believe it?”
Torquaz didn’t answer, but his eyebrow tensed.
“Then it makes it simple…
- Is it really that simple?’ Torquaz asked.
“You join my household and we go after the Kingslayer, ask him a few questions and we find the truth… And I sponsor your way in the Legion, and you take revenge on the Keshians, ending the war…
- The war?
A treaty of peace is a paper,” Norman lectured. “The war is not over. It never did.”
Torquaz wanted to speak, but Norman subtly added: “But this comes later… If you accept my offer to join me.”
“Does it amuse you?”
“Never,’ Torquaz said. ‘I’m leaving the city at dawn. I haven’t come to join your guild Norman, but to ask you a favour.
- I’ll watch over your sister. But I wonder, is she ready?
There is only one way to find out. The Prime Knights shall decide. But I have faith, she’s a Torquaz, and you are the Demonslayer.
Bah! You always knew flattery worked on me.
Thank you,” Torquaz said.
“The Oathpact wasn’t only sacred to you, Torquaz. Have faith in others, there is light in the world” he pointed at the mana lamp. “We even know how to make it ourselves!” And he laughed.
“Where should I start?
- Two favours, not one.
You are the Silvertongue after all. Well, yes. Tell me, and I will repay you, on the Oathpact.
He has vanished in the Westernlands. And a man with fiery hair burnt three villages, leaving no one alive. The last of these villages was Hookstone. The major city close to Hookstone is at the frontier of the Riverlands and the Westerlands, it is called Hearthstone.
Close to the Flintshire Brewery…
Norman smiled and slammed his card deck on the table, revealing his K’tun card between two fingers.
“- He’s angry,’ Norman added. “The prophecy goes: And his Return shall bring forth the Rebirth…”
“Thank you, Norman…” Torquaz rose.
Daegoln offered him his hand. Torquaz shook it.
As Torquaz left, he heard his friend’s voice saying:
“Do you know how they call men who do not attend imperial line-ups? They call them oathbreakers. Imperial law says they are to be hunted and beheaded as deserters and thieves. What a vicious law!’
Long ago, I refused a young lowborn girl in my house, denying her the rights of sanctuary I’ve vowed to uphold. I was young, and spoiled. She begged, and I threatened her… Called her a whore, and asked my guards to escort her where she belonged. She cursed me: “For you refuse, never shall I grant you mercy. You will beg for me every ten years where whores go…” I have ever since, and ever since, when I was 22, I realized I couldn’t die… A coincidence? Or is it because of the magical radiations in Kesh? Because of my abuse of potions? I think not… She was Death.
It has been 9 and a half years… I’m going where whores go. To the Westernlands.
Dantena didn’t leave any note to Sixtina, only instructions to his squires and to Antoinette. He had fallen in battle, and she was to join the University to learn magic. She would keep practicing horsemanship, as the Torquaz’s Heir.
Having left through the Ismair Kel Gate, he faced the road, redressing his cloak, to adjust his armour, blackened by the years working at night, and he faced he horizon.
Winds slapped upon his long white hair and beard grew on his face. Ravenclaw and Hawkeye rested in his back, his two-swords shining under the sunlight. He wasn’t as dashing and felt rusty, but he still enjoyed this feeling. It was similar yet different. Back then, he didn’t know what it meant to follow the life of a swordsman. He didn’t know the responsibilities of an army’s leader. Today, he answered his own questions, having found the courage to do so. There was no point of serving this hell of a heaven, while he could room the apocalyptic landscape.
After all, Dantena was a man who couldn’t die.
Finding the Kingslayer would help him find peace, and truly decide if anyone was worth protecting. Realising how desperate and rotten the prestigious Imperial Order truly was made Torquaz acknowledged the possibility that their teaching weren’t the right ones. But a few beings, such as that Borothar squire, his last friend Norman, and his squires reminded him that magic wasn’t dead, and that he had plenty of time to find out.
Did he have the choice?
It mattered not.
The sun shone over the Manfredian Road. The path carved towards the West. Torquaz didn’t even look back. Drinking potions to ease his pain, he started his quest. He rejoined his path.
Smiling, the gloomy traveler known as Dantena van Torquaz guessed the hardest had been the first step.